It is listening and taking action.
The chamber has embarked on a long list of initiatives in the last eight months since the hiring of former Jefferson Post Publisher Cabot Hamilton as Executive Director and induction of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation executive Gwynita Steele as president.
Most of it seems specifically targeted at helping local small business leaders weave their way through the difficulties of a struggling economy.
Small businesses, like the numerous establishments in Ashe that put out goods and services with fewer than 10 employees, face tremendous challenges in good times.
Many of these businesses are mom and pop operations, really. Even in this politically correct world we’ll say that mom keeps the books and pop turns the wrenches.
Actually mom keeps the books, answers the phone, purchases the advertising, handles the insurance claims, soothes inevitable ruffled customer feathers and deals with the tax man.
Pop turns the wrenches, orders the parts, diagnoses problems for his customers, goes the extra mile for his customer, answers the phone, thinks of new ways to get business, hires the part-time help, trains the part-time help and rehires new part-time help six months later.
And a hundred other things.
The chamber is looking for ways to help these mom and pop operations do their jobs better, more efficiently, make more money and keep more of what they sweat over.
Chamber officials were listening last month when a group called the small business council gathered to talk about needs for small business management.
Top on the list of concerns brought out at that meeting were how to market a business properly. Some are convinced that now is the time to market more through a variety of strategies.
Another concern expressed in the meeting is how to get financing to stay afloat and grow a tiny business. In response, the chamber is organizing roundtable discussions between business owners and marketing and advertising specialists and leaders in the banking industry.
The chamber also responded with links on its Web site. Prominently displayed on the home page of www.ashechamber.com is the link “Small Business Resources.” It takes you to links for advice on business management.
The meeting inspired a series of Jefferson Post stories about businesses resources.
The chamber has published a lead marketing tool for the county’s tourism industry, the Ashe County Visitor & Business Guide. It is beginning circulation now and will be in front of tourists as they arrive on the mountain with warmer temperatures.
Understanding that a major leg of the economy in Ashe will be tourism, the chamber is organizing a litter campaign through the Keep America Beautiful program.
It will be a multi-angled approach but the chamber is looking.